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Reviews

Die letzte Geschicht von Schloss Königswald

This afternoon I watched a fantastic German film called “The Last Story of Kingswood Castle.” I bought the DVD when I was in Germany in November and decided to break it out today. I really didn’t know anything about the movie. I bought it because of the cast – a cast of old (70-80 year old) German movie stars – these were the Lauren Bacalls and Greta Garbos of Germany. The film bills itself as “Peter Schamoni’s homage to the big German film stars like Camilla Horn, Marianne Hoppe, Carola Höhn, and Marika Rökk.” These four women have all since passed away, as well as Rose Renée Roth, who played Gräfin (Countess) Posadowsky, my favorite character in the movie (seen front in the picture). She passed away less than two years after the release of the film.
The film takes place in May of 1945. Eight old women find themselves in Schloss Königswald waiting for the end of the Second World War. Many of them have been run out of their own homes and have come to the Schloss seeking refuge. The castle is situated between two fronts of the war – with the Americans approaching from one side and the Russians from the other. Which troops will arrive at the Schloss first, and what will become of these women? As it turns out, the German troops arrive first and decided to take over a portion of the castle. As aristocrats, the women are against Hitler, and so they risk their lives and the destruction of the castle and come up with a “verrückten Plan” (crazy plan) to get the German troops to leave.
This is by no means a “Hollywood” film. In fact, besides the fact that it is German, it is far from Hollywood. First, it is unusual to see a film about World War II told from the German perspective. It was fascinating to see how the Germans portrayed not only the Russians and the Americans, but also their own troops. In addition, despite being a star-studded film, the movie doesn’t force the “image of the star” on the audience like we see so frequently in American cinema. The camera work is, for the most part, simple. The sound work crude at times. And yet, I found this to be a beautiful and moving film.
I am struck by the thought that, while the stars of this movie were some of Germany’s biggest and brightest film stars, I have never heard of a single one of them. This, I think, is a continuing tribute to the fact that Americans, in general, focus all of their attention on Hollywood, and usually ignore cinema from other nations. Whereas most Germans would recognize the names of our biggest stars, the only German star that most Americans would recognize is likely Franka Potente (from Run, Lola, Run).
Schloss Königswald is likely very challenging to find in America. While it is possible to order it from Amazon.de, Amazon.com doesn’t even list it as existing. eBay has no copies of the film for sale, though there are some trading cards from the film for sale, but they ship from Germany. While I would recommend this film to anyone, unfortunately, my copy will be useless to most people. It is in German (with a little snippets of English, Russian and Czech) and the only subtitles available are German (which, I admit, I turned on in case I missed any of the spoken words). However, for all of those German speakers out there who want to see a pretty amazing film, check this one out.

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Winged Migration


by Sony Pictures

The documentary genre isn’t one that generally strikes me as having “great films.” I don’t mean to say that documentaries can’t have noble messages or that they aren’t useful. Far from it, documentaries are often very useful. I simply mean that if you asked the average person to name their ten favorite movies, very few of them would place a documentary among their top 10. I know at least three people who probably would put one or more documentaries in their top 10, but they don’t fall into what I would consider the “average movie watcher” category.
Winged Migration, however, is a documentary that I would call a great film. If I told you that it was a film about migratory patterns of bird that has barely more than no narration and not a single human character with a speaking role, you would probably think that it would be about as boring a movie as you could imagine. That’s where you would be wrong. This movie has some of the most amaing cinematography that I have ever seen. You have never seen birds in this way. The camera isn’t just sitting on the group shooting the sky – it is flying directly along with the birds! The effect this creates is that you, the viewer, are flying directly alongside these birds. It feels almost as if you could reach right out and touch them.
Documentary fan or not, this is a movie that you really need to see. It is more than simply a look at the migratory patterns of these birds; it is a look into the interactions of birds with members of their own and other species. You will be amazed at what some of these birds do. From walking on water to playing peek-a-boo to avoiding sidling crabs, the birds in this film are amazing, as are their journies. In the final analysis, this is perhaps one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen – at the very least, it is the most beautiful. See this movie!

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Color Theory


by Jose Maria Parramon

I find the physics of light and color fascinating. And when you have an artist as a roommate you get to hear a lot about colors and their properties. Mike and I were talking about colors one day not too long ago and he handed me this book. This is a quick and easy book, it took me about an hour to read the whole thing. Did I read each and every word on each and every page? No, but I read it closely enough to have a better understanding of some of the different properties of colors and how they interact.
Everyone grows up learning that the three primary colors are Red, Yellow and Blue. In some way, this is true, but in reality, the “primary” colors all depend on the medium. Are we talking about light or paint? The computer age has replaced the color yellow with green (RGB color space) because red, green and blue are the primary additive colors. Light has an additive property – the more color you put in, the lighter the resulting color. Mix these three colors equally, and you get white. But any kid can tell you that mixing red, yellow (or green) and blue crayons won’t give you white! The physics behind this is called subtractive color. Since we can’t paint with light – except on the computer, kind of – a whole new process of color mixing has been developed by artists over the centuries. The new “primary colors” for an artist, then, cyan, magenta and yellow, which are complementary colors to red, green and blue, respectively.
“Color Theory” is written primarily for painters and other color artists, but I found it to be a very easy to understand exploration of how humans perceive color and how various colors interact. For example, while it is theoretically possible to create all the colors of the rainbow with the three primary colors (along with white and black), the technical application borders on impossible due to what this book calls the “gray trap.”
Unless you are an artist, this is probably not a book worth buying, but if you find it at a local library or have a friend that owns a copy, I would recommend spending an hour or so with this book just for the intellectual thrill.

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Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker’s Trilogy (Paperback))


by Douglas Adams

This is the third, but not final, book in the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy by Douglas Adams. Perhaps the most temporally confusing of the first three books, Life, the Universe and Everything finds our heroes spread out throughout space and time. The book joins Arthur Dent on ancient Earth five years after the end of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and follows him and his comrades to varied planets at varied times, sometimes separated by as many as a few billion years.
This is another brilliant work by Adams. One of my favorite parts is an encounter between Dent and a creature named Arajag whose various reincarnated forms Arthur has reputedly murdered over and over.
“What have you got against me, Dent?” snarled the creature, advancing on him in a painful waddle.
“Nothing,” insisted Arthur, “honestly, nothing.”
“Seems a strange way to relate to somebody you’ve got nothing against, killing them all the time. Very curious piece of social interaction, I would call that. I’d also call it a lie!”
This series of books is one that can be enjoyed by sci-fi lovers and non-sci-fi lovers alike. Layered with a remarkable sci-fi storyline and a hilarious social commentary, this is a story anyone can love.

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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe


by Douglas Adams

This is the amazingly funny follow-up to Adams’ recently adapted book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. At time the story can be confusing, mainly because some of the elements are so foreign to the average reader, but you won’t be lost for long.
The pace of this book is never dull, and the writing is so witty that you won’t want to put the book down. What will that oaf Arthur Dent do next? And what about Zaphod – can he be any more self-important? While the book is highly enjoyable just as a story, when read as the social and political satire that it is, the story takes on so much additional meaning and even adds to the humor.
Join Arthur, Trillian, Ford Prefect and Zaphod (former President of the Galaxy) and all of the strange beings they encounter on their journeys for a great meal at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

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Digital Fortress : A Thriller


by Dan Brown

So I just finished reading Digital Fortress tonight. Overall, I thought it was pretty good, but the end of the book was tedious, especially for anyone who knows anything about math, science or computers. And if you know something about all three of those, you’ll find yourself yelling at the characters for about the final 50 pages. Many of the plot points were predictable, and some of the less developed plot elements surfaced late in the story, making the ending even more frustrating.
But aside from the end of the story, the rest was pretty good. Taking place at the NSA, the timing couldn’t have been better with the recent news that the NSA has been spying on American citizens with the consent of the President. In the classic Dan Brown style, this book pairs two brilliant minds on a cerebral case, with many elements taking place in Europe – Spain in this case. Some of the logic and reasoning is exciting, and the story has several plausible elements, making the reader feel very present in the action.
Ultimately, I rated this 3 of 5. It is not Brown’s best work, but if you enjoyed Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code you will probably enjoy this as well.

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